(PatriotWise.com)- The U.S. Secret Service made a shocking and disturbing announcement earlier this week: Almost $100 billion of funds from pandemic relief bills have been stolen by criminals.
The agency reported that fraudsters were able to divert these funds from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and the Paycheck Protection Program, both run by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Another target for the criminals was a separate program that was created to give out funds for unemployment assistance across the country.
Thus far, only $2.3 billion of the stolen funds have been able to be recovered. Along with those recoveries, more than 100 people have been arrested for their roles in the crimes. The Secret Service said this includes people who worked individually or as organized groups to steal the money and defraud the government.
Since March of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began in the United States, the federal government has given out a total of $3.5 trillion in relief funds through various programs and packages.
In addition to protecting U.S. presidents, the Secret Service is responsible for tracking down and stopping financial fraud. The agency announced that it has named a new national pandemic fraud recovery coordinator — Roy Dotson.
In this new role, Dotson, who is an Assistant Special Agent in Charge, will oversee the agency’s investigations into all of the fraud cases that have or will result from the massive amount of theft.
As Dotson recently commented:
“I’ve been in law enforcement for over 29 years and worked some complex fraud investigations for 20-plus years, and I’ve never seen something at this scale.”
In talking with CNBC, Dotson said criminals had an easier time stealing this money because it was very easy for people to obtain these funds, which were meant for pandemic relief. He explained:
“There’s no doubt that the programs were easily accessible online. And so, with that, comes the opportunity for bad actors to get into that mix. It was necessary to try to get these funds out to people that were truly hurting, and no fault of anybody.”
To this point, the Secret Service is involved with more than 900 investigations that are active and ongoing related to this pandemic fraud. Dotson explained:
“It’s a wide range because the pot was so big. You not only have your typical transnational organized groups and domestic organized groups, criminal groups, but you have individuals that decided to take advantage of that.
“So, there’s many different patterns and investigative intelligence that we develop that I can’t really go into. But we’ve mapped out kind of some of the different characteristics of different groups.”
Dotson’s role is a rather large one. In addition to overseeing these investigations related to pandemic relief funds being stolen, his Jacksonville office will also head up all cases related to fraud with cryptocurrency.
Many criminals use cryptocurrency wallets as a way to receive money through various scams they commit. It’s also a way for them to hide their identities and launder money without the government noticing.